Monday, December 9, 2019

Lana Lang's Two Alien Boy-Friends

“Twice Told Tales” or “Mars and Stars”
Another  "double-header" review by Emsley Wyatt

“Lana Lang's Romance On Mars”
Adventure Comics #195 (December 1953)
Writer: uncredited
Artist: Curt Swan & Stan Kaye
Cover: Win Mortimer

"Lana Lang and the Legion of Super-Heroes” 
Adventure Comics #282 (March 1961)
Writer: Otto Binder
Artist: George Papp
Cover: Swan & Kaye

I’ve done a couple of these “Twice Told Tales”, one involving Mon-El, and one involving Sun Boy.  Well, it had slipped my mind that there was a third such pair of stories, this one involving the initial appearance of yet another Legionnaire, Star Boy.  Thanks to “Anonymous” for reminding me of this fact.  OK, here we go.  First, here are the covers.  As previously, the older story is on the left and the newer on the right.

The opening “splash pages” are very similar, guest hero makes a fuss over Lana while Superboy picks up the slack for him.

The stories proper open with Lana mooning over her Superboy photo collection.

Looks like Pa Kent has switched from pipe to cigar.  (Still a few years before that Surgeon General’s report came out.)

Lana draws some inspiration from Hollywood, because that always works out so well.

Lana laments the fact that no Earth boy could make Superboy jealous.  But unknown to her events will son bring someone onto the scene that does have the ability to be a suitable target for Lana’s scheme.  Each story features a super-powered character that brings himself to Superboy’s attention in an amusing manner.

After having their fun, they send a message asking for a meeting.

And now we get to meet the guest characters:  Mars Boy and Star Boy. 

I had known about this Mars Boy, but until I started doing research for this article I hadn’t realized that this was Mars Boy’s third appearance.  He was also featured in Superboy #14 and #16. But next you have the obligatory origin flashback panels.
You’ve got to love that “family space-mobile”.  I thought for a second that it might have been “Jetsons” inspired, but this issue hit the stands a year before that series first aired.  I don’t think that the headlights would do that much good though.

Next we have a little background. We see both getting used to using their powers and we see them referencing their secret identities, we also see Star Boy being welcomed into the Legion.  Both characters explain their presence on Earth as the pursuit of an escaped criminal.  They’ve caught him but each explain that they need Superboy’s help to catch his confederate, who’s hiding out in the underground copper drain pipe systems on their respective planets which neither can see through, all with Lana Lang eavesdropping.

Persons unfamiliar with this Star Boy story might be somewhat surprised to learn that he once had Superboy-level powers.  When he showed up later during the Legion’s Adventure Comics run, he only had the weight-inducing power.  So why did this change occur? I know there's the "in-universe" explanation that the Superboy-class powers just "wore off" but I don't know if the reasoning for doing that has ever been explained. I figure that when the Legion got their own feature, with Mon-El joining in the premier story, that DC’s editorial folks decided that the Legion was potentially overpowered with five Superboy-class members (Superboy himself, Mon-El, Star Boy, Ultra Boy, and Supergirl).  So the decision was made to “scale down” Star Boy’s powers and give Ultra Boy the “one power at a time” restriction.  Star Boy’s “secret identity” also went out the window at this point.

As for Mars Boy, he probably went to the comic history trash-bin in 1955, when the Martian Manhunter was created and a different sort of Mars was envisioned as a part of the DC universe.  The earlier referenced “Anonymous” indicated a speculated “Earth 1.5” as a possible setting for such superseded stories.  Perhaps the Time Trapper’s “Pocket Universe” would fit the bill.  But anyway, back to the stories.

Lana comes up with the idea of using the guest heroes’ secret identities to blackmail them into going along with her idea to make Superboy jealous.

But, in both stories, Superboy overhears Lana’s attempts at extortion.  Gosh, with all this overhearing of things this is like one big “Three’s Company” episode.

Boy, this must have been awkward when Lana later becomes a Legion Reservist.  “You know what she did the first time we met?”  But first Lana must convince her parents to let her accompany our guest heroes back to their home planets by having them convince them that she’ll be perfectly safe by performing feats of strength. 

Star Boy even recharges the battery with “Electrical Vision.” So Lana, Superboy, and the two guest heroes soon depart on their journey through space and, in the Star Boy story, time.

Superboy goes out in search of the second escaped criminal.

This is easily accomplished. After all, Superboy is able to see through copper.  Love that “Greetings” line, “Hi, I’m Superboy and I’m here to arrest you.  Have a nice day.”

So Lana first has Mars Boy and Star Boy make her dresses of the local giant spider silk and get her some rare jewels.

But Superboy has a plan of his own to counter Lana’s scheme.  It’s the old “turnabout is fair play” ploy.  He recruits a local girl to make Lana jealous. Cytherea takes Superboy down a Martian canal while Zynthia treats him to a ride in her super cool “sky canoe."

And just as Lana set the local heroes to trivial tasks, Superboy’s new female friend does the same thing with him.  Uproot a tree; bring me a “parakat”.

And, just for the heck of it, here’s the parakat.

Lana sees her plan falling apart so she resorts to the tried and true “I feel feint” tactic.

But Supeboy quickly fashions a helmet for her and Lana, out-thought at every turn, decides to pack it in.

And so we come to the end of our tales.

The other two “twice-told” tales did have some variations between them but these two tales were almost panel for panel identical.  I think the artwork was greatly improved from the first story to the second. Xanthu seems far more realized on these pages than Mars, and the characters faces and postures seemed more true-to-life.

Looking at these stories collectively another fact emerges.  It would seem that the DC staff was working on expanding Legion membership, perhaps in anticipation of giving the group a permanent slot and re-purposing old stories was just the easiest way to do it.  Star Boy was introduced in March of ’61, Mon-El in June of that year and Sun Boy in November.  That’s three new Legionnaires introduced in just eight months.  Add to that the three new arrivals from Action #276 in May ’61 (Violet, Bouncing Boy and Brainy,) not to mention Supergirl joining in that same issue and Ultra Boy coming along in July of ’62 and Legion membership has about doubled over a short period of time, with Adventure Comics #300 just around the corner.  Hey, if these recycled stories gave us such great characters as Star Boy, Mon-El, and Sun Boy, I guess I’m OK with that.

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